Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., has introduced legislation that would protect service members and chaplains who oppose gay and lesbian service members. The bill raises the long-standing question of status of chaplains as service members as well as members of religious orders.
Akin’s amendment would require the Defense Department to “accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs” of every member “concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality.” What is most provocative the ban on an order for a chaplain to perform any duty, rite or ceremony that is “contrary to the conscience, moral principle or religious beliefs” of either the chaplain or of the faith group sponsoring the chaplain.
It raises the question of who a chaplain must serve. These chaplains don the uniform and agree to adhere to the command of the military. This includes the policies of equality and civil liberties. Clearly, a chaplain can decline to serve if principles of equality for gay and lesbian members are against their religious principles. This pits the value of religious freedom against both principles of equality and military command.
If military personnel — and chaplains — belong to religious faiths that oppose homosexuality, the order to recognize same-sex marriage would be viewed as a sin. However, to prevent such chaplains from serving would be to deny military personnel access to chaplains of their faith. While the language of this bill is vague and problematic, it is a difficult question.
One approach is to guarantee that gay and lesbian personnel have chaplains who will minister to them while allowing chaplains who oppose them. As for personnel, I do not see how the military can tolerate discriminatory actions or comments by personnel in violation of military policy and order. While there may be some need for accommodation in religious ceremonies and rites, the danger is that discrimination and harassment could be shielded as expressions of faith.
What do you think? Should there be some accommodation for anti-homosexual faiths in the military?
Source: Army Times